Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with James Smith, Co-Founder of Arrowtown Drinks Limited, located in Hellingly, England, United Kingdom.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Arrowtown Drinks is a hard seltzer brand with an environmental focus. Hard seltzers are the up-and-coming trend within the drinks category they're essentially alcoholic sparkling water and have grown popular due to their light and refreshing profile. Being low in sugar and all-natural, they also provide a healthier alternative to traditional alcoholic drinks. Driven by a belief that businesses can serve a greater purpose, we're donating 3% of every sale towards wildlife conservation. Our purpose is to make doing your bit for the environment as easy as changing your drink. To do this, we've partnered with two charities at the forefront of wildlife conservation, Sea Shepherd UK and Tusk, to support marine and African wildlife, respectively.

Since our launch, we have operated with an omnichannel approach which means our customer base varies. We sell direct to consumers through our website and Amazon but also sell to a variety of independent businesses on both the on and off-trade.

Tell us about yourself

I never had plans to start a drinks company, so it is an industry we rather fell into. My brother, Rob, and I always had plans to start a business together, so we were always toying with new ideas. Then when he was traveling in New Zealand (in Arrowtown), he came across a hard seltzer for the first time. At this point, I was still studying at uni, which entailed its fair share of nights out. So, like many, I had become bored of drinking the same drinks packed with sugar and sweeteners. Once Rob told me about this new type of drink that was healthier but still tasted great, we knew we had to set about bringing this to the UK. I continued working on the concept during my final year at university before finally launching Arrowtown in December 2020.

The motivation to grow Arrowtown comes in a variety of forms. Firstly, we are motivated to expand our distribution so that we can bring better tasting, healthier drinks to more and more people. But beyond that, we have the added incentive of our charity partners. Knowing that every can we sell directly funds wildlife projects provides an even greater incentive. We love the idea that daily consumption habits can be used as a force for good. This really resonates with our customer base, which is always great to hear.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

It is hard to single out a single accomplishment since our launch, as I think, like many founders, we are guilty of not appreciating the wins enough. It's very easy to always be chasing the next opportunity. However, the moment that really stands out was our first production run and a tangible product we could hold, feel and drink for the first time. That was very special.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

In the alcohol space, we're up against some of the biggest drinks brands and breweries in the world, which certainly throws up a number of challenges. In this case, fighting for visibility and shelf space on a shoestring has proven very difficult. However, it reaffirms the need to be creative and authentic to stand out and cut through the noise. Hopefully, we'll continue to make a name for ourselves and grow our footprint across the country.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Find something that you love. If your work feels like play, you'll be able to outwork your competitors and sustain yourself for longer.
  2. Just start. We'd neither run our own business before nor worked in the sector, so we were coming in completely blind. It's daunting, but you gradually piece things together, and your business will take shape.
  3. Network as much as possible. Because we had no experience or contacts, we've made a conscious effort to get advice and guidance from as many people as possible, which has been invaluable. There are so many people out there with copious amounts of knowledge who are willing to help, so use them. The accelerated learning you'll gain is priceless.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.